Auditory learning, visual learning, and kinesthetic learning are different types of learning styles, meaning different ways in which students process information most effectively. Auditory learners understand lessons best when they hear the information. Visual learners learn most effectively by seeing the information. Kinesthetic learners are most successful when they’re able to use their whole body to understand a concept. These learners tend to learn best by “doing” rather than hearing or seeing.
Many of us need a combination of learning styles to really grasp new information. Unfortunately, law school is typically driven by one type of learning style—auditory learning. It makes some sense. After all, law school is meant to prepare us for the practice of law. Litigating a case is an extremely auditory process. For auditory learners, this curriculum is a positive. For others who don’t learn as well by listening, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to incorporate your own style of learning.
In order to incorporate your own style of learning, you first have to understand what your unique learning style really is. Even if you’re primarily a kinesthetic learner, there may be times when you learn best by seeing a graphic or a map or by hearing something repeated. For example, I’m usually a kinesthetic learner, but when I studied Constitutional Law for the bar exam, I needed to see all of the constitutional amendments in one big visual to be able to understand their place in the constitution and how they fit together. When I study French for fun, however, I need to both hear the way the words are pronounced and see how they’re spelled in order for a word to stick.
Second, understand the goal of your lessons. You’re studying to become a lawyer. Being a lawyer requires good listening skills. Whether you plan to be an estate planning attorney or high-powered litigator, you need to be able to listen to your client and analyze their case. They won’t show up to your office with flow charts or other visuals to help you understand their needs.
So, what is a kinesthetic learner to do? The key is to incorporate kinesthetic learning into your study routine in a way that also honors the legal profession. Here are three fun activities that can help you do just that.
Go For A Walk
When I studied for the Uniform Bar Exam in 2019, I had a one-year-old son. In order to maximize my time as a mom with a full-time job while studying for the bar, I had to get creative. I found auditory outlines, outlines that are narrated. I downloaded the outlines to my phone, buckled my baby into his stroller, and set out for a walk and study session.
My son was mesmerized by the tractor trailers going by as we walked, and I listened to the same outlines over and over again repeating the mnemonics as I walked to memorize the rules of Civil Procedure.
Getting outside and getting active helped me to focus on what I was hearing. This technique not only improved my Civil Procedure practice test scores, but it also helped me become a better listener, which has made me a better lawyer.
Much like going for a walk, going shopping has helped me as I’ve studied over the years. I discovered this strategy by accident when I was in college. My best friend, Sonia, and I met at a local diner to write key concepts for our Constitutional Law exam on notecards. Our plan was to quiz each other on the law while we ate breakfast, but I struggled to retain any of the information I was writing. Normally, writing things out helped me understand the concept. Not this time. The food, the noise, the fact that I wanted to chit-chat with my friend was all distracting. Worst of all, sitting still was making me crazy.
We finished our breakfast, packed up our study supplies, and I suggested we go walk around the mall. Once at the mall, I had a question about something from our notecards. Sonia pulled out the cards and read the information to me, and something clicked. Walking and shopping helped me to relax and get the jitters out so I could focus on the material. We spent the rest of the morning strolling through the mall taking turns quizzing each other from the notecards we prepared.
The simple act of walking and browsing through a store, or more accurately, of getting moving, helped me to focus on the lesson better than when I was sitting still and trying to retain the information. Later, when we sat for the exam, I was trying to remember a case. I remembered what store Sonia and I were in when we talked about the case. I then remembered exactly what I needed to know. I got an A on that exam.
If walking isn’t your speed, try a high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT) style routine. After writing out my notecards for the bar exam, I added a type of fitness move to each one like squats, jumping jacks, kettle bell or dumbbell swings, lunges, and burpees. My husband would quiz me on the card asking questions like “what does the first amendment to the constitution say?” If I got the question right, I would do only five reps of the exercise on the card. If I got it wrong, I would do ten.
Even though I was moving, I was still forced to listen to the information. This way, I combined both auditory and kinesthetic learning, had a blast, stayed healthy, and passed the bar on the first try!
If you learn best when you move, see if a combination of kinesthetic and auditory learning strategies can help prepare you both for the bar exam and for a successful career practicing law.